History of additive manufacturing

History of additive manufacturing
Wohlers Report 2012
History of additive
manufacturing
by Terry Wohlers and Tim Gornet
State of the Industry
This 26-page document is a part of Wohlers Report 2012 and was created for
its readers. The document chronicles the history of additive manufacturing
(AM) and 3D printing, beginning with the initial commercialization of
stereolithography in 1987 to May 2011. Developments from May 2011 to
May 2012 are available in the complete 287-page version of the report. An
analysis of AM, from the earliest inventions in the 1960s to the 1990s, is
included in the final several pages of this document.
Additive manufacturing first emerged in 1987 with stereolithography (SL)
from 3D Systems, a process that solidifies thin layers of ultraviolet (UV) lightsensitive liquid polymer using a laser. The SLA-1, the first commercially
available AM system in the world, was the precursor of the once popular SLA
250 machine. (SLA stands for StereoLithography Apparatus.) The Viper SLA
product from 3D Systems replaced the SLA 250 many years ago.
In 1988, 3D Systems and Ciba-Geigy partnered in SL materials development
and commercialized the first-generation acrylate resins. DuPont’s Somos
stereolithography machine and materials were developed the same year. Loctite
also entered the SL resin business in the late 1980s, but remained in the
industry only until 1993.
After 3D Systems commercialized SL in the U.S., Japan’s NTT Data CMET
and Sony/D-MEC commercialized versions of stereolithography in 1988 and
1989, respectively. NTT Data CMET (now a part of Teijin Seiki, a subsidiary
of Nabtesco) called its system Solid Object Ultraviolet Plotter (SOUP), while
Sony/D-MEC (now D-MEC) called its product Solid Creation System (SCS).
Sony stopped manufacturing SL systems for D-MEC in 2007. In 1988, Asahi
Denka Kogyo introduced the first epoxy resin for the CMET SL machine. The
following year, Japan Synthetic Rubber (now JSR Corp.) and DSM Desotech
began to offer resins for the Sony/D-MEC machines.
In 1990, Electro Optical Systems (EOS) of Germany sold its first Stereos
stereolithography system. The same year, Quadrax introduced the Mark 1000
SL system, which used visible light resin. The following year, Imperial
Chemical Industries introduced a visible light resin product for use with the
Mark 1000. ICI stopped selling its resin about one year later when Quadrax
dissolved due to a legal conflict with 3D Systems.
Introduction of non-SL
systems
In 1991, three AM technologies were commercialized, including fused
deposition modeling (FDM) from Stratasys, solid ground curing (SGC) from
Cubital, and laminated object manufacturing (LOM) from Helisys. FDM
extrudes thermoplastic materials in filament form to produce parts layer by
layer. SGC used a UV-sensitive liquid polymer, solidifying full layers in one
pass by flooding UV light through masks created with electrostatic toner on a
glass plate. LOM bonded and cut sheet material using a digitally guided laser.
Cubital and Helisys have not been in business for many years.
Selective laser sintering (SLS) from DTM (now a part of 3D Systems) and the
Soliform stereolithography system from Teijin Seiki became available in 1992.
Using heat from a laser, SLS fuses powder materials. The Soliform technology
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was originally developed by DuPont under the Somos name and was
subsequently licensed to Teijin Seiki for exclusive distribution rights in parts of
East Asia. Also in 1992, Allied Signal introduced vinylether Exactomer resin
products for SL.
In 1993, Soligen commercialized direct shell production casting (DSPC). Using
an inkjet mechanism, DSPC deposited liquid binder onto ceramic powder to
form shells for use in the investment-casting process. Massachusetts Institute of
Technology (MIT) invented and patented the process that Soligen used. The
company shut down its operations in January 2006. The same year, Denken
introduced an SL system that uses a solid-state laser. Denken’s SL system was
one of the first to fit on a bench top and was introduced at a low price,
compared to other SL systems that were on the market.
Also in 1993, 3D Systems and Ciba commercialized their first epoxy resin
product. At around the same time, the QuickCast build style was introduced.
QuickCast is a method of producing investment-casting patterns that are mostly
hollow, making it possible to burn them out without fracturing the ceramic
shell. It is still used to this day.
1994 was a year of many new additive-manufacturing system introductions.
ModelMaker from Solidscape (then called Sanders Prototype) became
available, as did new systems from Japanese and European companies.
ModelMaker deposits wax materials using an inkjet print head. One of the new
Japanese systems was a small stereolithography machine from Meiko targeted
mainly at the makers of jewelry. (Meiko ended its SL business in 2006.)
Meanwhile, Kira Corp. commercialized Japan’s first non-stereolithography
system. Called Solid Center, it uses a standard laser printer engine, toner, and
an x-y plotter and knife to produce wood-like models by paper lamination. Kira
referred to Solid Center as the first plain-paper 3D printer.
Also in 1994, Fockele & Schwarze (F&S) of Germany introduced a
stereolithography machine, but on a limited basis. The German company EOS
commercialized a machine called EOSINT based on laser-sintering technology
the same year. Japan’s Ushio (now called Unirapid Inc.) sold its first
stereolithography machine in 1995.
Introduction of low-cost
3D printers
In 1996, Stratasys introduced the Genisys machine, which used an extrusion
process similar to FDM but based on technology developed at IBM’s Watson
Research Center. After eight years of selling stereolithography systems, 3D
Systems sold its first 3D printer (Actua 2100) in 1996, using a technology
that deposits wax material layer by layer using an inkjet printing mechanism.
The same year, Z Corp. launched its Z402 3D printer, primarily for concept
modeling. Based on MIT’s inkjet printing (3DP) technology, the Z402
produced models using starch- and plaster-based powder materials and a waterbased liquid binder. Also in 1996, Schroff Development began to sell its semiautomated paper lamination system for under $10,000.
Personal Modeler 2100 from BPM Technology was sold commercially in 1996.
The ballistic particle manufacturing (BPM) process deposited wax materials
using an inkjet print head. The company ceased operations in October 1997.
Also in 1996, Aaroflex commercialized DuPont’s Somos stereolithography
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technology in the U.S. The same year, Kinergy of Singapore began to sell its
Zippy paper lamination systems, which functioned similarly to the LOM
process.
AeroMet was founded in 1997 as a subsidiary of MTS Systems Corp. The
company developed a process called laser additive manufacturing (LAM) that
used a high-power laser and powdered titanium alloys. Until it shut down in
December 2005, AeroMet manufactured parts for the aerospace industry as a
service provider. Also in 1997, Ciba purchased the Exactomer resin business
from Allied Signal.
In 1998, Beijing Yinhua Laser Rapid Prototypes Making & Mould Technology
Co., Ltd. stepped up the promotion of its products. Since 1996, Tsinghua
University in Beijing—the original developer of the systems—has offered
technologies similar to FDM and other additive processes. The same year,
Autostrade introduced its E-DARTS stereolithography system to companies in
Japan for $25,000. Also in 1998, Optomec commercialized its laser-engineered
net shaping (LENS) metal powder system based on technology developed at
Sandia National Labs.
In March 1999, 3D Systems introduced a faster and less expensive version of
Actua 2100 called ThermoJet. A month earlier, the company also began to sell
its SLA 7000 system for $800,000. It was the most expensive plastic-based
AM system on the market at the time. In April 1999, the Extrude Hone AM
business (now Ex One) installed its first ProMetal RTS-300 machine for
building metal parts at Motorola. The system is based on MIT’s 3DP inkjetprinting technology. Fockele & Schwarze of Germany introduced its steel
powder-based selective laser-melting system, developed in cooperation with
the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology.
Also in 1999, Röders began to sell its controlled metal buildup (CMB)
machine, based largely on technology developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for
Production Technology. The same year, DSM purchased the Somos business
from DuPont.
In January 2000, Helisys announced that Toyoda Machine Works of Japan
would manufacture and sell LOM systems in Japan. In June, Toyoda showed
its own machine based on LOM technology at a large exhibition in Tokyo. The
same month, Sanders Design International announced the development of a
machine named Rapid ToolMaker (RTM). Also in January, Sanders announced
that it had licensed the RTM technology to the German company Buss
Modeling Technology (BMT), formerly Buss Müller Technology, with the
intent to manufacture and sell it in Europe. At around the same time, BMT
announced that it would manufacture and sell a color 3D printer based on
powder and binder technology developed by Aad van der Geest of the
Netherlands. The process was similar to the 3DP process from Z Corp.
New generation
machines
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April 2000 was a month full of new technology introductions. Objet
Geometries of Israel announced Quadra, a 3D inkjet printer that deposited
and hardened photopolymer using 1,536 nozzles and a UV light source.
Sanders Prototype (now Solidscape) introduced PatternMaster, a machine
designed to produce precision wax patterns. Precision Optical Manufacturing
(POM) announced direct metal deposition (DMD), a laser-cladding process
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that produces and repairs parts using metal powder. POM began system sales
in early 2002 and continues to offer DMD as a service. Z Corp. introduced its
Z402C machine, the world’s first commercially available multi-color 3D
printer.
In July 2000, Stratasys introduced Prodigy, a machine that produces parts in
ABS plastic using the company’s FDM technology. In October, Sanders
Prototype Inc. changed its name to Solidscape Inc. to avoid market confusion
with Sanders Design International. In November 2000, Helisys closed its doors
after selling more than 375 systems worldwide over a period of nine years. The
same month, Helisys founder and LOM inventor Michael Feygin announced
the formation of Cubic Technologies. The new company absorbed most of the
assets of Helisys. Also in November, Teijin Seiki announced that it would
acquire the CMET SL technology from NTT Data. By March 2001, the
acquisition was complete and the expanded stereolithography manufacturer
changed its name to CMET Inc.
In 2001, Solidimension (now Solido) of Israel quietly introduced its desktop
machine, a technology that laminates thin sheets of PVC plastic. The company
was slow to ship machines to customers, even to beta test sites, and had
planned to sell machines in 2002, but did not. Finally, in 2004, it sold its first
machines to companies in Japan. Also in 2001, Aaroflex and Cubital quietly
disappeared from the industry. Israel-based Cubital was one of the first
companies to commercialize an additive-manufacturing process and sold 33
systems over a span of eight years.
In February 2001, 3D Systems acquired OptoForm, a French company that
developed a stereolithography method of using non-liquid photocurable
materials. The OptoForm technology is capable of using ceramics, metals, and
various composite materials in the form of pastes.
In March 2001, Objet Geometries began to ship a beta version of its Quadra 3D
printer. In May 2001, Solidica disclosed technical details on its ultrasonic
consolidation process, and began to ship machines to beta customers in late
2001 and early 2002. The technology combines ultrasonic welding and CNC
machining to produce aluminum parts. In September 2001, Stratasys began the
commercial shipment of its FDM Titan, a machine capable of producing parts
in polycarbonate, ABS, polyphenylsulfone, and a polycarbonate–ABS blend.
In August 2001, 3D Systems completed its acquisition of DTM. The merger
sparked an intense investigation by the Antitrust Division of the U.S.
Department of Justice. In September 2001, 3D Systems acquired RPC Ltd., a
small stereolithography resin producer in Switzerland. This occurred on the
heels of Huntsman (then Vantico and formerly Ciba) severing its long-term
distribution relationship with 3D Systems.
At EuroMold 2001 in late November, Envisiontec of Germany showed its
Perfactory machine. The technology uses acrylate photopolymer and digital
light processing (DLP) technology from Texas Instruments to harden an entire
layer at once. Also at EuroMold, Z Corp. introduced its Z810, a system that
prints parts in a 500 x 600 x 400 mm (20 x 24 x 16 inch) build volume using
1,800 jets from six HP print heads.
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In 2001, Generis GmbH of Germany commercialized its large GS 1500 system.
The system uses an inkjet-printing technique to fuse together sand to produce
sand cores and molds for metal castings. Later in the year, ProMetal installed
its first RTS-300 machine in Europe.
Also at EuroMold 2001, Objet Geometries introduced its QuadraTempo
product, an improved version of its Quadra machine. EOS announced its
DirectSteel 20-V1 product, a steel-based powder consisting of particles 20
microns (0.0008 inch) in size. The powder is used to produce metal parts in
layers that are 20 microns (0.0008 inch) in thickness. At around the same time,
the company introduced its EOSINT 380, a laser-sintering machine that offered
speed improvements.
Concept Laser GmbH, a Hofmann company in Germany, introduced a new
system at EuroMold 2001 that combines laser sintering, laser marking, and
laser machining. The machine uses an yttrium-aluminum-garnet (YAG) laser
and stainless steel powder to produce fully dense parts. Shanghai Union
Technology Co., Ltd. (also known as Uniontech) of Shanghai, China, began to
sell its SL machines in China in 2001.
In 2001, RSP Tooling LLC was formed. RSP stands for rapid solidification
process, a steel spray technique developed at the Idaho National Engineering
and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL). In January 2002, RSP Tooling
announced that it had reached an agreement to obtain an exclusive license for
the RSP technology. An alpha test machine was completed in February 2002.
Ohio-based Belcan served as a development partner and investor.
In early 2002, Stratasys introduced its Dimension product at a price of $29,900.
The Dimension machine, which deposits ABS plastic, is based on the former
Prodigy product. The same year, Concept Laser GmbH began to sell its M3
Linear machine. Also in 2002, Envisiontec GmbH began to sell its Perfactory
and Bioplotter machines. The Bioplotter produces scaffold structures from
various biomaterials for tissue engineering.
Wuhan Binhu Mechanical & Electrical Co., Ltd. of China began to sell
lamination, laser sintering, stereolithography, and plastic extrusion (similar to
FDM) systems in 2002. The same year, Solidscape introduced its T66 product,
a lower-priced version of its drop-on-demand inkjet-based machine. Phenix
Systems of France sold its first Phenix 900 system in 2002. The machine uses
solid-phase sintering to produce ceramic and metal parts.
After more than two years of offering services only, POM began to sell its
direct metal deposition machine in 2002. It uses a CO2 laser, a 3-axis, overhead
gantry CNC-motion system, and metal powders to repair tooling and aid in the
production of tooling components. Meanwhile, Schroff Development stopped
selling its inexpensive paper lamination machines.
Menix, Co., Ltd. of Korea sold it first VLM300 variable lamination machines
in 2002. This system uses a 4-axis, hot-wire cutter to slice through high-density
polystyrene sheets at an angle to minimize stair stepping. The machine is
currently priced at about $18,000.
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In February 2003, Z Corp. introduced its ZPrinter 310 system. The product,
then priced at $29,900, uses technology similar to the company’s other powderbased 3D printers. It replaced the Z400 product. The same month, EOS
announced that it had sold its first two EOSINT laser-sintering machines in
North America.
In May 2003, Sony Precision Technology America began to market the Sony
stereolithography machines in the U.S. As part a settlement between 3D
Systems and the U.S. Department of Justice, Sony purchased a license from 3D
Systems to sell stereolithography in North America. Active sales of the
machine occurred later that year.
In mid-2003, Solidscape introduced its T612 system for making wax patterns
for investment castings. The basic technology is similar to Solidscape’s
previous systems, although the T612 is faster and builds much bigger parts.
Around the same time, Envisiontec launched the sale of its systems in the U.S.
In September 2003, it was announced that Stratasys would serve as Objet
Geometries’ exclusive distributor for its Eden products in North America. The
distribution agreement ended in December 2006.
In late 2003, 3D Systems began to sell and ship its InVision 3D printer, a
machine that jets and hardens photopolymer, similar to Objet’s machines. 3D
Systems priced the machine at $39,900. The company introduced the InVision
HR (high resolution) version of the machine in April 2004 for $59,900.
Chubunippon began to sell its low-cost Wizaray stereolithography system in
2003. The machine built acrylate parts that fit inside a 100 x 100 x 100 mm (4
x 4 x 4 inch) build volume and sold for about ¥998,000 (~$10,184).
At EuroMold 2003, EOS introduced its EOSINT M 270 direct metal lasersintering machine. The system uses a fiber laser rather than a CO2 laser, which
is used in the EOSINT M 250 Xtended machine. Another German company,
Trumpf, introduced its TrumaForm LF and TrumaForm DMD 505 machines at
EuroMold. The LF machine uses a 250-watt laser and fiber optic cable to direct
light onto a bed of pure powder metal. Trumpf partnered with POM to produce
the DMD 505 machine. The 505 includes a 5-axis motion system.
In March 2004, Stratasys introduced the “Triplets,” which consisted of three
variations of the FDM Vantage machine. Prices ranged from $99,000 to
$195,000. The machines are capable of processing both ABS and
polycarbonate materials.
In Q2 2004, Envisiontec introduced the Vanquish photopolymer-based system.
The Vanquish machine uses digital light processing technology to solidify an
entire layer at once. Unlike the company’s Perfactory system, Vanquish works
in a similar way to traditional stereolithography systems, with the build
platform moving downward with each layer.
DSM Somos introduced several new resins at the April 2005 SLA/SLS user
conference, including a nanocomposite material, a high-elongation material, a
low-durometer material, a UL94 V0 flame-retardant material, and a material
that can withstand relatively high temperatures.
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In July 2004, the ProMetal division of Ex One (then Extrude Hone) introduced
the small RX-1 metal-based machine. Maximum part size is 40 x 60 x 25 mm
(1.6 x 2.4 x 1 inch). The RX-1 is targeted at educational and research
customers.
Also in July, 3D Systems announced the Bluestone nanocomposite SL resin.
The same month, 3D Systems began to ship the InVision HR, a high-resolution
3D printer targeted at the jewelry market. The Sinterstation HiQ, also released
in July, added new closed-loop thermal controls and scanning options aimed
directly at process improvement for part production applications. This
technology was also offered as an upgrade to the Sinterstation 2500plus and
Vanguard systems.
Solidica sold and installed a new version of its ultrasonic consolidation system,
called Formation, in September 2004. The system was priced at about
$400,000. The following month, 3D Systems introduced its dual-vat Viper HA
stereolithography system for the hearing aid industry. In November, Objet
introduced its Vero FullCure 800 series opaque-colored materials. They offer
improved mechanical properties and better detail visualization.
At EuroMold 2004, EOS introduced the EOSINT P 385, a plastic material
system capable of thinner layers than were possible with its predecessor, the
EOSINT P 380. Also at EuroMold, Concept Laser of Germany introduced the
M1 cusing laser-melting machine. The machine can process all of the metals of
the M3 Linear but it does not support laser erosion or laser marking. Next
Factory (now DWS) introduced the DigitalWax 010 and DigitalWax 020
systems. Both use a solid-state laser to harden photopolymer, and were priced
at €25,000 and €35,000, respectively.
Also in December 2004, Solidscape introduced the T66 Benchtop and T612
Benchtop systems for $40,000 and $50,000, respectively. The systems do not
require air-conditioning units, so they are smaller and lighter than the previous
machines.
In March 2005, Z Corp. released its latest color 3D-printing system, the
Spectrum Z510. It offers a larger build volume, produces better quality parts
than the Z406, and is less expensive at $49,900. The same month, Stratasys
dropped the price of the Dimension SST from $34,900 to $29,900. The
machine offers a soluble support removal system that automates the process.
In April 2005, 3D Systems unveiled the Sinterstation Pro, a large-frame lasersintering machine with part breakout, powder handling, and recycling. It is
built on the HiQ technology and includes removable build modules and digital
scanning. The InVision LD, manufactured by the Israeli company Solido and
rebranded by 3D Systems, was introduced at a price of $22,900. This system
builds parts by selectively laminating PVC sheet material.
In June 2005, Aspect Inc. of Japan showed its SEMplice laser-sintering
machine at a large exhibition in Tokyo. The same month, DSM Somos sold its
laser-sintering technology and patent portfolio to Valspar Corp., a large
manufacturer of coatings and laser-sintering powders in Switzerland. A month
later, Contex Scanning Technologies, a Danish manufacturer of wide-format
document scanners, acquired Z Corp. In August 2005, Objet Geometries
introduced the FullCure Tango line of flexible materials for its PolyJet systems.
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October 2005 was an active month. Stratasys launched its RedEye RPM paid
parts service business with online quoting and 60 FDM and PolyJet machines.
Objet Geometries introduced the Eden500V, a large-format PolyJet 3D printer
for $170,000. Z Corp. introduced the $25,900 ZPrinter 310 Plus, which
replaced the ZPrinter 310. 3D Systems announced the large Viper Pro SLA, a
modular system capable of running single or dual vats of resin.
In November 2005, 3D Systems announced that it would relocate its
headquarters to Rock Hill, South Carolina. The company also announced its
new DuraForm EX polyamide material for its Sinterstation Pro systems. The
same month, Ex One’s ProMetal division introduced the sand-based S-Print
machine at a base price of $500,000. Envisiontec launched a new version of its
Perfactory machine. Meanwhile, MCP Tooling Technologies (now MTT
Technologies Group) introduced the SLM ReaLizer 100 selective laser-melting
machine.
Voxeljet Technology GmbH of Germany introduced its VX800 machine and
showed parts from it at EuroMold 2005. The large powder-based system uses
3DP technology originally developed at MIT and commercialized by Z Corp.
The company sold its first machine in 2005.
In December 2005, AeroMet, a division of MTS Systems Corp., ceased
operations. MTS said in an announcement that making titanium parts for the
aerospace industry was not a profitable business model.
The Swedish company Speed Part (now Sintermask GmbH of Germany) began
to ship its system in early 2006. The machine uses infrared lamps to project
light through a mask to sinter an entire layer of powder. The cycle time for
each layer is reportedly less than 10 seconds, regardless of the area sintered.
In January 2006, Stratasys signed an agreement with Arcam to be the exclusive
distributor in North America for electron beam melting (EBM) systems.
Meanwhile, Stratasys lowered the price of its Dimension BST and SST
machines from $24,900 and $29,900 to $18,900 and $24,900, respectively. In
response to these lower prices, Z Corp. lowered the price of its ZPrinter 310
Plus from $25,900 to $19,900.
Also in January, Objet Geometries introduced its Eden350/350V platform,
which replaced its popular Eden330/333 system. At the same time, the
company introduced its Eden250 3D printer for $60,000. Soligen shut down its
operation the same month after more than 12 years in business.
In February 2006, 3D Systems announced its InVision DP (dental professional)
system that includes an InVision 3D printer and 3D scanner for the dental
market. Stratasys added the Vantage X systems starting at $99,000 and reduced
the price of its Vantage i machine to $85,000.
3D Systems reduced the price of its InVision LD (plastic lamination) product
from $22,900 to $14,900 in March 2006. Also in March, the company filed a
patent infringement lawsuit against Envisiontec and Sibco. In Q2 2006, EOS
introduced stainless steel and cobalt–chrome materials.
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In April 2006, Stratasys introduced the Dimension 1200 BST and SST systems
priced at $21,900 and $29,900, respectively. The following month, Desktop
Factory (Pasadena, California) announced that it was developing a 3D printer
priced in the $5,000 to $7,000 range. The device uses an inexpensive halogen
light source and drum-printing technology to build parts additively from plastic
powder.
In May 2006, DSM Somos showed its NanoTool, a nanoparticle-filled
photopolymer for SL with high-heat-resistant capabilities. DSM also
introduced ProtoCast AF 19120, a completely antimony-free, low-ash-content
SL resin targeted at investment casting. DSM Somos also unveiled its new
high-accuracy, ABS-like SL materials, ProtoGen O-XT 18120 and O-XT
18420.
Also in May 2006, Sony Manufacturing Systems ended its stereolithography
sales in North America. Under a licensing agreement with 3D Systems, Sony
began to establish an SL sales organization in California in Q3 2002. In a span
of more than three years, the company sold four systems.
The same month, 3D Systems released its Accura 60 photopolymer, which is
said to mimic polycarbonate. The following month, the company announced
two authorized service providers: Integra Services for its laser-sintering
equipment and Total C S Team for SL equipment.
The German company Trumpf discontinued its TrumaForm LF machine in Q2
2006. The machine constructs parts in a powder bed by selectively melting
powder with a Trumpf disk laser.
In August 2006, EOS launched its cobalt–chrome powder material for the
EOSINT M 270 systems. The same month, Z Corp. introduced its ZScanner
700 handheld 3D scanner for $39,900. In October 2006, EOS announced the
commercial availability of 17-4 stainless steel for use with its EOSINT M 270
equipment.
In November 2006, 3D Systems opened its new headquarters in Rock Hill,
South Carolina, and Stratasys opened a new office in Shanghai, China.
At EuroMold 2006, several new products were introduced. EOS unveiled the
Formiga P 100 laser-sintering system, a new machine that was designed from
the ground up. It currently sells for €150,000 to €170,000. EOS also introduced
two new higher-throughput machines, the EOSINT P 390 and EOSINT P 730.
Voxeljet Technology showed its VX800 machine, which uses PMMA
thermoplastic powder. Envisiontec introduced its small Perfactory Desktop
System. MTT (then MCP Tooling Technologies) introduced its new SLM
ReaLizer 100 selective laser-melting machine. Next Factory (now DWS)
introduced a faster stereolithography machine, as well as a much larger system.
Aspect Inc. of Japan shipped its first SEMplice laser-sintering machines to
customers in Q4 2006, a product it introduced more than a year earlier. Speed
Part of Sweden (now Sintermask of Germany) sold its first systems in 2006. In
Q4 2006, Meiko of Japan stopped manufacturing and selling SL systems. Near
the end of 2006, Trumpf ended its agreement with POM to sell the large DMD
505 machine in Europe. At the end of the year, Stratasys stopped the
distribution of the Eden PolyJet products for Objet Geometries. Meanwhile,
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Objet opened a sales and support office in Billerica (near Boston),
Massachusetts. In December 2006, Stratasys installed the first Arcam EBM
machine in the U.S.
In January 2007, 3D Systems announced the V-Flash 3D printer. It uses film
transfer and flash-imaging technology. The machine was expected to sell and
ship around mid-2007 at a price of $9,900. The same month, Stratasys
launched the new Dimension Elite 3D printer for $32,900.
Solidscape released two market-specific models of its T66 machine, the D66
for dental applications in February and the R66 for the jewelry applications in
March. Both are currently about $36,000. Around the same time, Desktop
Factory received “pre-sales” for most of the 200 units that it had planned to
deliver in 2007. The 125ci 3D printer was expected to be in full production in
July or August 2007.
In March 2007, Z Corp. introduced the ZPrinter 450, the first color 3D printer
to break the $40,000 price point. The most interesting feature of the system is
its automated removal and recycling of loose powder. The ZPrinter 450 is the
first product from Z Corp. to be truly office friendly. Also in March, Sony
Manufacturing Systems stopped manufacturing the Solid Creation System for
D-MEC of Japan. This came after 18 years of manufacturing the family of
stereolithography systems.
At the 2007 3DSUG Users Conference, DSM Somos introduced the DMX-SL
100 high-impact-resistance material for rigorous prototyping and
manufacturing applications. It also introduced WaterClear Ultra with ABS-like
properties, resistance to water, and improved clarity. Huntsman released a
resin, initially named 71640, for HeCd-based SL systems that offered low
viscosity and good impact resistance. 3D Systems announced the Accura 55
resin that mimics ABS.
Also at the 3DSUG event, Advanced Laser Materials released a new fireretardant polyamide for laser-sintering systems. It passed the 60-second vertical
burn test and offers Nylon 11-like properties. The company also showed a
highly recyclable polyamide composite material for LS. SLAMaterials
introduced three SL resins: a clear material called Hi-Rezz ICE, Hi-Rezz MED
for medical applications, and Hi-Rezz X-factor that offers high strength and
high-temperature capabilities.
In April 2007, Arcam introduced its larger build volume A2 electron beam
melting (EBM) machine. EOS introduced its Formiga P 100 laser-sintering
system to the American market the following month. Stratasys announced its
FDM 200mc machine and the ABSplus material. Z Corp. announced the zp140
composite water-curing material that requires no secondary infiltration or
coating and the zp131, a whiter material for finer features. Concept Laser
introduced the M2 cusing system for processing reactive materials (i.e.,
aluminum and titanium alloys).
In July 2007, 3D Systems introduced the Accura Extreme SL resin with
improved durability and elongation. CRP Technology released its more
flexible, impact-resistant Windform FX material for laser sintering. The same
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month, Stratasys introduced the FDM 400mc and M30 ABS material. The
following month, Stratasys opened a new global headquarters facility in Eden
Prairie, Minnesota.
In September 2007, Desktop Factory accepted advance reservations for its
$5,000 3D printer. The system was originally expected to become available in
2007, but shipment was delayed. Also in September, 3D Systems introduced
the DuraForm HST fiber-filled polyamide for laser sintering, as well as the
Accura 48HTR high-temperature SL material. Meanwhile, Objet Geometries
introduced a rubber-like material called TangoPlus.
In October 2007, Voxeljet introduced its VX500 system, a smaller version of
the VX800, for €270,000. DSM Somos introduced its WaterClear Ultra
material in November 2007. The same month, Envisiontec issued a press
announcement stating that the 3D Systems V-Flash infringes on its German
patents. Accufusion delivered its first commercial system in November to
Exeter Advanced Technologies (UK), an organization that is a part of a
consortium led by Airbus.
December 2007 was a month full of introductions. Stratasys announced the
availability of its large-frame FDM 900mc, which includes 32 parts that were
manufactured with FDM technology. 3D Systems announced a new
nanocomposite SL resin called Accura Greystone. EOS introduced an impactresistant LS material called PrimePart DC and a high-elongation, flexible
material called PrimePart ST.
At EuroMold 2007 in December, Envisiontec introduced the PerfactoryXede, a
machine that is dramatically larger than its previous Perfactory systems. The
company’s Vanquish system became the PerfactoryXtreme with a new “skin.”
The company also introduced SI500, a material that is said to have ABS-like
properties. The same month, Advanced Laser Materials announced the
commercial availability of its flame-retardant FR-106 laser-sintering material.
Also at EuroMold 2007, Objet Geometries debuted its multi-material
Connex500 3D-printing system. The machine is capable of printing two build
materials simultaneously. It is based on Objet’s PolyJet Matrix technology. The
company coined the term “digital material” to describe the result of producing
a composite substance using PolyJet Matrix technology. At EuroMold,
Sintermask showed its Pollux 32 selective mask-sintering system, which sinters
entire layers at once.
In December 2007, Mcor Technologies of Ireland informally introduced its
new Matrix system that uses a blade and adhesive to laminate A4 sheets of
paper. The system was expected to sell for €18,900. Also in December, former
Microsoft vice president Ed Fries announced FigurePrints (Redmond,
Washington). The company produces characters from the wildly successful
World of Warcraft video game using color AM from Z Corp.
In January 2008, Tangible Express filed a lawsuit against 3D Systems and shut
down its operations in Springville, Utah. The following month, 3D Systems
settled the suit by purchasing all of the equipment from Tangible for $5.3
million. Stratasys and Arcam terminated the distribution agreement that
allowed Stratasys to distribute the EBM products in North America.
Subsequently, Arcam set up its own direct sales channel in the U.S.
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The same month, Stratasys introduced the FDM 360mc to replace the Vantage
machines. 3D Systems released the next version of its Multi-Jet Modeling
machine, the ProJet HD3000.
In February, 3D Systems and MTT (then MCP Tooling Technologies)
announced a private label agreement in which 3D Systems would distribute the
selective laser-melting systems in the U.S. Stratasys announced its Dimension
1200es 3D printer with ABSplus material. Also, the company announced its
RedEye architectural modeling division—RedEye ARC.
Stratasys unveiled a biocompatible FDM material, ABS-M30i, in March 2008.
The same month, 3D Systems announced a collaborative materials agreement
with Trial Corp. of Japan to develop new LS materials. DSM Desotech (a.k.a.
DSM Somos) filed a lawsuit against 3D Systems alleging anticompetitive
conduct and patent infringement. John Kawola, a longtime Z Corp. employee,
replaced Tom Clay as CEO of Z Corp. MCP Tooling Technologies changed its
name to MTT.
In April 2008, 3D Systems began to ship its V-Flash desktop modeler, but then
soon stopped shipment. Sales and shipments were still on hold as of April
2009. The same month, Solidscape introduced its T76 precision wax-printing
system.
In Q2 2008, Netherlands-based Shapeways, a company that is a part of the
Philips Electronics’ incubator program, rolled out its service to the world. The
company gives consumers a relatively easy way to convert 3D designs into
parts or products. Shapeways offers a range of “creator” tools that simplifies
the process of designing custom products for consumers.
In May 2008, EOS of Germany introduced its high-elongation polyamide
PrimePart DC for plastic laser sintering and Stainless PH1 for its direct metal
laser-sintering platforms. Optomec (Albuquerque, New Mexico) released its
new LENS MR-7 machine with a fiber laser, dual-powder feeder, and
integrated thermal imager for process monitoring. Optomec also entered into an
agreement with Manz Manufacturing of Germany for using the M3D Aerosel
Jet deposition system for printing photovoltaic cells.
Arcam of Sweden released the Titanium Grade 2 material for its electron beam
melting systems the same month. 3D Systems announced an agreement with
3M to combine its dental-scanning systems as options with 3D Systems’ 3Dprinting systems. In July 2008, 3D Systems, Boeing (USA), EOS, Evonik of
Germany, and MTT created a Direct Manufacturing Research Center with the
University of Paderborn (Germany). Objet Geometries announced the
DurusWhite FullCure 430 polypropylene-like material. 3D Systems introduced
the iPro 9000 SLA Center stereolithography system as a replacement to its
Viper Pro in August 2008. The company also introduced its ProJet SD 3000 3D
printer.
In September 2008, Nuvotronics (Blacksburg, Virginia) announced the
commercial availability of its PolyStrata microfabrication technology for very
small electronic and sensing devices. Milwaukee School of Engineering
licensed its TetraLattice Technology, developed in conjunction with
Materialise of Belgium, to DSM Somos.
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At 3D Systems’ World Conference in October 2008, the company showed the
large-frame iPro 9000 XL SLA Center and the iPro 8000 MP SLA Center,
which has a 50 mm (2 inch) build height and targets the hearing aid, dental, and
medical industries. A new ultra-clear SL material, Accura ClearVue, was also
shown. The ProJet CP 300 RealWax 3D printer and a large-format ProJet 5000
were released. The sPro 140 and 230 SLS Centers were shown and have
replaced the Sinterstation Pro series. The company also announced the
availability of its polypropylene laser-sintering material, DuraForm PP 100,
developed jointly with TRIAL Corporation of Japan.
At the October TCT 2008 event in Coventry, England, MTT released a larger
selective laser-melting machine, the SLM 250-300. The machine offers a 250 x
250 x 300 mm (9.8 x 9.8 x 11.8 inch) build volume with automated powder
handling and recycling. Also at the event, Mcor Technologies of Ireland
officially launched its Matrix 3D printer. It uses standard A4 sheets of paper, a
water-based adhesive for bonding the sheets, and a mechanical blade for
cutting the cross sections. It is priced at about €25,000.
Also at TCT 2008, Huntsman Advanced Materials of Switzerland announced
the development of an entirely new additive-manufacturing process based on
MLS MicroLightSwitch technology. It uses 40,000 microshutters and a raster
approach to direct UV light onto the surface of photopolymer. October was the
month that Z Corp. chose to release the high-resolution, 24-bit color ZPrinter
650 for $60,000. Objet introduced the $40,000 Alaris30 PolyJet machine that
produces 28-micron (0.0011-inch) layers using the VeroWhite FullCure 830
material.
FigurePrints produced 1,700 custom products using AM for players of World
of Warcraft in October 2008. This came only 10 months after the company
launched the manufacturing service. In November, another consumer-oriented
service, JuJups.com by Genometri of Singapore, began making custom
Christmas ornaments. The customer submits a JPG image of a face, which is
then used to produce an angel in color using a 3D printer from Z. Corp. The
same month, Objet released its Eden260V machine capable of running a range
of materials, including the Vero, Tango, and DurusWhite.
At EuroMold 2008 in December, Huntsman Advanced Materials introduced the
Araldite Digitalis, a machine based on MLS MicroLightSwitch technology.
The chemistry giant believes that it is faster and more accurate than
stereolithography. Huntsman also announced a new material, SL 7820. It is
white in its uncured form, but turns black upon exposure to UV, resulting in
black SL parts without secondary painting.
Also at EuroMold, EOS unveiled a new large-frame, high-temperature, lasersintering platform, the EOSINT P 800. It is capable of processing polymers up
to a temperature of about 385°C (725°F). This expands AM to a new range of
thermoplastics, such as PEEK, which EOS also introduced at EuroMold.
Stratasys announced that it would offer ULTEM 9085 for its FDM 900mc and
400mc machines. The material is widely used in aircraft interiors for its flame
redundancy and low smoke emissions. Concept Laser of Germany released an
updated M1 cusing system. The new machine has a more powerful laser and a
250 x 250 x 250 mm (9.8 x 9.8 x 9.8 inch) build volume.
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Also in December 2008, Stratasys introduced a vapor-honing product called
Fortus Finishing Stations for finishing FDM parts made in ABS. Electronic
Arts of Redwood City, California and Z Corp. announced the availability of
Spore Sculptor, a service for printing models of Spore creatures. Near the end
of 2008, 3D Systems sold its Grand Junction, Colorado facility.
In January 2009, 70 individuals from around the world met at the ASTM
International headquarters near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to establish ASTM
Committee F42 on Additive Manufacturing Technologies. The committee was
created to produce standards on testing, processes, materials, design (including
file formats), and terminology. The same month, the Dimension 3D Printing
Group of Stratasys introduced the uPrint Personal Printer for $14,900. The
machine uses the ABSplus material and soluble supports.
Also in January, Shapeways (Eindhoven, Netherlands) introduced Shapeways
Shops. It allows artists, designers, or anyone to set up “storefronts” and upload
3D models to sell to the public. The products are manufactured on an AM
system and shipped directly to the consumer by Shapeways. Products include
sculptures, jewelry, figurines, and a wide range of other consumer-oriented
products. Prices start at a few dollars.
In February 2009, Jérémie Pierre Gay founded Create It Real (Aalborg,
Denmark). He was planning to offer a 3D printer called the Platon in 2010.
Also in February, EOS and Victrex of the UK announced a new PEEK
material, PEEK HP3, for use in the high-temperature EOSINT P 800 machine.
Stratasys announced a price reduction on its Elite and BST 1200es Dimension
machines in March 2009. 3D Systems formed an alliance with Dreve GmbH of
Germany to develop and market dental application solutions.
FigurePrints announced the availability of its custom additive-manufacturing
service in Europe in March 2009. The same month, ReaLizer GmbH of
Germany introduced the SLM 50, the first selective laser-melting machine that
fits on a bench top. The system measures 800 x 700 x 500 mm (31.5 x 27.6 x
19.7 inches) and processes stainless steel, tool steel, cobalt–chrome, and gold.
In April 2009, EOS bought a controlling interest in Advanced Laser Materials,
a developer and manufacturer of laser-sintering materials. EOS and Trumpf of
Germany withdrew their U.S. lawsuit against MTT Technologies after MTT
agreed to license certain laser-sintering patents owned by EOS and Trumpf.
Also in April, Bits from Bytes of England released the RapMan 3D printer kit
(£750) based on the RepRap open-source system launched at Bath University
of England. It uses an extrusion head similar to FDM, includes software for
slicing STL files, and sends the data to the machine in G-code format. The
same month, Stratasys released its new SR-30 support material for its ABS
M-30 material. The material dissolves about 50% faster than its predecessor.
In April 2009, MakerBot Industries introduced its Cupcake CNC product based
on the RepRap open-source system in April 2009. Kits are available for $750.
ProMetal RCT, a division of Ex One, was named the North American
distributor for the Voxeljet 3D-printing process.
In May 2009, EOS sold its first EOSINT P 800 laser-sintering machine for
processing PEEK and other high-temperature materials. Envisiontec introduced
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its ULTRA bench-top DLP-based system for $35,000. Solidscape unveiled its
PreXacto line of 3D dental printers and its new DentaCast material. 3D
Systems commenced shipment of its $9,900 V-Flash 3D printer that was
announced in January 2007.
In June 2009, Z Corp. released its new water-curable zp150 composite build
material. 3D Systems released DuraForm FR 100, a halogen-free, flameretardant material for laser sintering that meets aerospace smoke and toxicity
requirements. Also in June, Objet Geometries announced its Connex350
system for about $200,000. Like the Connex500, it uses the PolyJet Matrix
technology to print multiple digital materials with different properties.
Also in June, Fujifilm Dimatix unveiled its new Dimatix Materials Printer
DMP-3000, which offers a print area of 300 x 300 mm (11.8 x 11.8 inches). It
uses high-definition print heads that users can fill with their own fluids. The
printer is similar to Optomec’s Aerosol Jet non-contact, maskless system for
direct-write electronics. The Dimatix system is targeted at the printed
electronics market for research and development.
In August 2009, 3D Systems acquired the assets of Desktop Factory from
Idealab (Pasadena, California). Desktop Factory created an industry buzz when
it announced a $5,000 machine in May 2006. The system uses an inexpensive
halogen light and drum-printing technology to build parts in plastic powder,
but the company was unable to commercialize it. Stratasys announced the
compatibility of its large-frame Fortus 900mc machine with ULTEM 9085, PCABS, PC-ISO, and ABS-M30i in August.
Objet announced a new material pack in October 2009 for its Connex line of
PolyJet Matrix printers that gave users 18 additional materials with Shore A
hardness from 27 to 95. TangoBlackPlus FullCure, a material with rubber-like
properties, was also released. The same month, Materialise and other volunteer
companies turned over the RP4Baghdad humanitarian project to Doctors
Without Borders. The effort provided medical assistance to civilians in Iraq.
The same month, ASTM International Committee F42 on Additive
Manufacturing Technologies published standard terminology for the industry—
the first standard produced by the group. 3D Systems purchased Acu-Cast
Technologies (Lawrenceburg, Tennessee) and launched it 3Dproparts service
bureau in October 2009. As the first of several service provider acquisitions,
3D Systems marked the entrance into the paid parts business, effectively
competing against its own customers.
Z Corp. announced its automated monochrome ZPrinter 350 machine with
automated material loading and integrated material recycling in October 2009.
DSM Somos announced that its WaterShed XC 11122 and ProtoGen 18420
materials have been ISO 10993 certified for in vitro cytotoxicity and
sensitivity. In November 2009, 3D Systems acquired AdvaTech Manufacturing
(Goodland, Indiana).
At EuroMold 2009 in December, EOS announced two new plastic lasersintering machines: the EOSINT P 395 and EOSINT P 760. The large-frame
P 760 machine can monitor laser power during the build. EOS released
NickelAlloy IN718 (an Inconel alloy) and Al-Si10-Mg (an aluminum alloy) for
its M series metals-based machines. 3D Systems announced the ProJet 5000,
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with a build volume of 550 x 393 x 300 mm (21.7 x 15.5 x 11.8 inches). It uses
the VisiJet MX photopolymer material with a wax support material.
Also at EuroMold, Solido relaunched its plastic lamination system and created
a lot of attention in the process. The SD300 Pro system is priced from $2,950
to $9,950 in the U.S., along with the $2,950 purchase price for required
supplies, bringing the total to $14,950. Carima of South Korea introduced a
family of three DLP-based visible light photopolymer 3D printers. They are
priced from $57,000 to $59,000 and build parts upside down, similar to the
Perfactory system from Envisiontec. Voxeljet released its new large-frame
machine, the VX800HP, with increased throughput and higher resolution. 3D
Systems expanded its 3dproparts service to Europe.
Near the end of 2009, Steven Adler of A3DM formed an independent
Solidscape users group for jewelry designers and manufacturers who use the
Solidscape equipment. An online forum was established at
solidscapeusergroup.com. Meanwhile, a design-your-own toy website,
MAQET (maqet.com), was launched by artist Keith Cottingham.
In January 2010, Stratasys and HP signed an agreement for Stratasys to
manufacture an exclusive line of HP-branded 3D printers. Also in January,
Stratasys announced the new uPrint Plus, which offers a slightly larger build
volume compared to uPrint. Also included are SMART Supports, which reduce
the use of support material by up to 40%. The same month, Optomec released
its Aerosol Jet Display Lab System for touch screens and display applications
using direct-write technology.
In February 2010, 3D Systems acquired Moeller Design (Seattle, Washington)
to expand 3Dproparts. Optomec was awarded a Navy contract to continue
developing the LENS process for aircraft engine repair. Materialise released its
Magics Metal SG support generation software for metal additive
manufacturing. CRP Technology (Italy) introduced a new laser-sintering
material, WindForm LX 2.0. EWI hosted the startup meeting for a new
Additive Manufacturing Consortium.
In March 2010, Stratasys extended its SMART supports capability to its entire
line of Dimension and Fortus machines, allowing for build time reductions of
up to 14% and reduction in support material by 40%. Netfabb released netfabb
Engine for RapMan Basic. RapMan is a 3D printer from Bits from Bytes, based
on the RepRap open-source development. In April 2010, 3D Systems acquired
Design Prototyping Technologies (East Syracuse, New York). The same
month, Materialise celebrated its 20th anniversary with its World Conference
2010 in Leuven, Belgium.
Additional developments in 2010 included the introduction of cometruejet from
Microjet Technology of Taiwan. The company offers two color inkjet 3D
printers using technology that is very similar to that from Z Corp. Irepa Laser
formed EasyCLAD Systems to market its laser metal deposition equipment
using a powder fed through a nozzle similar to LENS. The equipment can be
used for laser cladding or part construction and has the capability of multi-axis
and multi-material deposition.
By 2011, several industries were adopting AM as their main method of
manufacture. Manufacturers of in-the-ear hearing aids were first to adopt AM
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technology industry wide for the production of custom-fit shells. The dental
industry began experiencing the same pervasive growth in the use of AM
systems. The dental market, however, is many times larger than that of hearing
aids.
The direct metals processing technologies garnered significant interest and
growth. It is believed that the possibility of novel designs, combined with
mechanical properties equivalent to wrought alloys with which designers are
familiar, may speed the adoption of metal-based AM at a much faster rate than
polymer-based AM. Biomedical and aerospace applications have led the way in
this area.
When a key FDM patent expired, inexpensive equipment in the form of kits
and fully assembled machines based on the RepRap open-source project
became available. Since their introduction, these low-cost “personal” systems
have experienced very strong growth. When critical stereolithography and laser
sintering technology patents expire, expect individuals and organizations to
take advantage of similar opportunities with these processes.
The ASTM International Committee F42 on Additive Manufacturing
Technologies progressed impressively. The terminology standard was the first
to be completed, in 2009. The F42 main ballot titled Specification for Data
Exchange Format for Additive Manufacturing standard was balloted and
approved in May 2011 as the first non-terminology standard. In July 2010, the
ASTM F42 design subcommittee released its survey on AM design rules. This
work is seen as critical to continued adoption of AM for end-use production
parts.
In April 2010, Renishaw plc (UK) opened a dental manufacturing facility
based on cobalt–chromium DMLS for copings and frameworks. Shapeways
(The Netherlands), an online provider of consumer-oriented products, began to
offer AM parts made from glass. Also in April, Stratasys began to deliver
shipments of the HP-branded FDM machines.
In May 2010, Z Corp. (Burlington, Massachusetts) announced a distribution
agreement with Envisiontec for its Ultra DLP-based machine. It was marketed
as the ZBuilder Ultra. 3D Systems announced two new SL resins for its laserbased systems: Accura PEAK, a polycarbonate-like material, and Accura
CeraMAX, a stiff, ceramic-filled material. Also in May, DSM Somos released
NeXt, an ABS-like photopolymer that is durable and water resistant.
In July 2010, Delta Micro Factory Corp. (Beijing, China) introduced its
extrusion-based portable personal UP! 3D printer. The machine was offered for
less than $3,000. It is a single spool system with a Windows-based interface
and automatic support generation. The part quality is among the best of the
systems in this class.
3D Systems acquired two French service providers, CEP and Protometal, in
July 2010. These purchases continued the buying spree of 3D Systems and the
expansion of 3Dproparts in Europe. 3Shape (Denmark), a developer of
automated software tools for orthodontics and hearing instruments, and Objet
teamed to offer a dental solution for users of Objet’s PolyJet technology.
Z Corp. released two low-cost printers, the monochrome ZPrinter 150 at just
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under $15,000, and the color ZPrinter 250 at just under $25,000. This
continued the industry trend toward lower cost 3D printers.
Solidscape (Merrimack, New Hampshire) signed a distribution agreement with
Hainan Giking Technology Company in China for its wax drop-on-demand
printers for dental applications in August 2010. That same month, Harvest
Technologies (Belton, Texas) opened a larger facility, an indication of the
strength of using AM for part production—a niche that Harvest has developed.
Bits from Bytes (UK) announced new software, called Axon, to drive its kitbased RapMan and BFB-3000 machine. EOS and GF AgieCharmilles
partnered to create a complete tool-making process based on direct metal laser
sintering for creating tools with conformal cooling and wire/ram EDM for final
finishing of the tool. Also in August 2010, Quickparts announced the
availability of a new online quoting system, QuickCutCNC, for traditionally
machined parts.
In September 2010, Objet (Rehovot, Isreal) reduced the price of its Alaris30
printer to $24,900. Also in September, INUS (South Korea) started a service
named InvisHands to create true CAD data from 3D scan point clouds. A
locally installed application uploads the scan data to INUS where company
staff creates the CAD model. The finished CAD model can be viewed using the
local application, and if the user is satisfied, the model can be purchased and
downloaded. 3D Systems acquired service provider Express Pattern (Vernon
Hills, Illinois). Express Pattern is well known for creating investment-casting
patterns with SL. Shapeways received $5 million in venture capital funding.
3D Systems bought Bits from Bytes (UK) in October 2010. Bits from Bytes
offers low-cost, extrusion-based systems in kit and assembled forms. This gave
3D Systems a foothold in the hobbyist and educational markets. 3D Systems
acquired the service provider Provel of Italy the same month. Rhodia (France)
announced two new LS materials, PA 11 and PA 6.
In November 2010, Spanish research center IQS announced two new
Hydroxyapatite (HA) formulations for use in 3D printers. HA is a calcifiable
material often used in biomedical and dental applications. 3D printing is used
for the creation of the shape, while secondary sintering is required to form the
final part.
EuroMold in December 2010 brought many new product announcements. EOS
introduced the EOSINT M 280 system. The machine’s dual-mode system can
run in nitrogen or argon environments, enabling customers to use materials
such as stainless steel and cobalt–chrome, as well as titanium alloys.
NickelAlloy IN625 was announced for use with the new EOS equipment. Two
new polymer materials were also released: the flame retardant PrimePart FR
and the flexible Primepart ST.
Also at EuroMold, Objet released its Objet24 3D printer at a list price of
$19,900. 3D Systems announced the HD 3000plus and the CPX 3000plus
systems, which offer an increased build size in the x direction, as well as
thinner layers. A new ProJet offering called the ProJet 6000, which looks like a
repackaged Viper stereolithography system with various build depths, was also
announced Also in December, Shapeways moved its headquarters to New
York, New York.
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Meetings were held in May 2010 and at EuroMold 2010 that involved the
CEOs of companies in the AM industry. In January 2011, the CEOs decided to
fund an initiative that would attempt to brand additive manufacturing to a
broader audience. The same month, it was announced that Solido had laid off
its workforce of 30 employees and entered receivership. This came after
Fortissimo Capital said it would provide Solido with $8.5 million in financing.
Solido sold a low-cost machine that produced parts in PVC by sheet
lamination. The assets and activities of Solido were absorbed by a new
company named Solid Model Ltd.
Also in January 2011, MTT Technologies split into two companies: MTT
Technologies Ltd. (UK) and SLM Solutions GmbH (Lübeck, Germany). Both
companies are providing selective laser melting equipment. 3D Systems
purchased National RP Support (Pella, Iowa), a provider of SL equipment
maintenance and hardware upgrades. Meanwhile, BotMill (Boca Raton,
Florida) released the Axis 2.1 kit for $1,065 and a preassembled, extrusionbased machine Glider 3.0 for $1,395. Both are single extruder head machines
based on the RepRap open-source work.
In February 2011, CRP Technology (Italy) introduced its next generation of
carbon-fiber-filled material, Windform XT 2.0, with increased strength and
greater elongation. Materialise announced a new material with high stiffness
and good impact strength, Tusk SolidGrey 3000. The material was developed
by DSM Somos for Materialise’s large Mammoth SL machines. Also in
February, 3D Systems acquired Quickparts (Atlanta, Georgia), an e-commerce
service provider that had revenues of $25 million in 2010.
In March 2011, 3D Systems acquired the service provider Accelerated
Technologies (Austin, Texas) and announced a new VisiJet e-stone material for
dental-specific applications. A judgment in favor of 3D Systems against
Envisiontec for patent infringement was entered in March, as well.
In April 2011, the 3DSUG, a users group previously only available to owners
of 3D Systems equipment, opened its annual conference to Objet and EOS
users. The 3DSUG membership voted to rename the group Additive
Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) and allow owners and users of other
technologies to also become part of the group. Advanced Laser Materials
(ALM), a strategic partner of EOS, took a 51% stake in Integra Services.
Integra provides hardware maintenance, upgrades, and development of polymer
LS systems. Objet announced new Digital Materials in April, including
VeroClear, a clear, ABS-like material, and VeroWhitePlus, a multipurpose
material.
Also in April 2011, Renishaw plc, known primarily for its measurement
equipment, acquired MTT Technologies Ltd. Materialise purchased Marcam
Engineering (Germany), a software developer for AM that is specific to metals.
3D Systems announced a two-for-one stock split the same month. 3D Systems
acquired Sycode Software Solutions (India), a small company that develops
plug-ins for CAD systems, and Print3D (India), which has an AM quoting
plug-in for CAD software.
In May, Stratasys acquired Solidscape, a company that offers high-resolution
3D printers for creating wax patterns for investment casting, particularly for the
jewelry and dental markets.
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Also in May, 3D Systems acquired The3dStudo.com, a provider of 3D models,
textures, plug-ins, gallery art, and stock photos and images. The same month,
3D Systems acquired Freedom of Creation (FOC), an Amsterdam-based
company that provides printable collections and 3D content. FOC’s projects
have received a great deal of attention over the company’s 10+ years in
operation. In May, 3D Systems entered into a distribution agreement with
Voxeljet Technology GmbH for North America.
Other developments
Several technologies and companies have emerged and vanished over the
years, including Light Sculpting (U.S.), Sparx AB (Sweden), Laser 3D
(France), BMT (Germany), Röders (Germany), Schroff Development (U.S.),
Desktop Factory (U.S.), and Chubunippon (Japan). All of them have
developed AM systems, but they have had little or no commercial impact.
Few machines from Asia are available for sale in the U.S. at the present time.
The only exception is the low-cost UP! product from Delta Micro Factory
Corp. of Beijing, China. The stereolithography machines from Sony sold in the
U.S. from Q4 2002 to Q2 2006. Kira Corporation sold its paper lamination
machines in the U.S. for a short period beginning in January 2001.
Early research and
development
by Terry Wohlers
The first attempt to create solid objects using photopolymers using a laser took
place in the late 1960s at Battelle Memorial Institute. The experiment involved
intersecting two laser beams of differing wave length in the middle of a vat of
resin, attempting to polymerize (solidify) the material at the point of
intersection. The photopolymer resin used in the process was invented in the
1950s by DuPont.
In 1967, Wyn K. Swainson of Denmark applied for a patent titled Method of
Producing a 3D Figure by Holography on a similar dual laser beam approach.
Subsequently, Swainson launched Formigraphic Engine Co. (Bolinas,
California) in hopes to further develop and eventually commercialize his
technology. Reportedly, work was still underway in 1994, although it never led
to a commercially available system.
In the early 1970s, Formigraphic Engine Co. used the dual-laser approach in
the first commercial laser-prototyping project, a process it called
photochemical machining. In 1974, Formigraphic demonstrated the generation
of a 3D object using a rudimentary system. Later, Formigraphic became Omtec
Replication, apparently at a time when an alliance was formed with Battelle
(Columbus, Ohio). Dr. Robert Schwerzel, then with Battelle, led the
development of similar techniques with the help of DARPA funding.
Co-developer Dr. Vincent McGinniss was one of the team members employed
by Battelle.
In the late 1970s, Dynell Electronics Corp. was assigned a series of patents on
solid photography. The invention involved the cutting of cross sections by
computer control, using either a milling machine or laser, and stacking them in
register to form a 3D object. Dynell merged with United Technologies Corp. in
late 1977. As a result, an independent company called Solid Photography was
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formed and an affiliated retail outlet named Sculpture by Solid Photography
was opened. In mid-1981, Sculpture by Solid Photography changed its name to
Robotic Vision. Solid Photography and another company, Solid Copier,
operated as subsidiaries of Robotic Vision at least until mid-1989.
Development of
stereolithography
Hideo Kodama of the Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute
(Nagoya, Japan) was among the first to invent the single-beam laser curing
approach, according to several sources. In May 1980, he applied for a patent
in Japan, which later expired without proceeding to the examination stage, a
requirement of the Japanese patent application process. Kodama claimed to
have difficulty in securing funds for additional research and development.
In October 1980, Kodama published a paper titled Three-Dimensional Data
Display by Automatic Preparation of a Three-Dimensional Model that outlined
his work in detail. His experiments consisted of projecting UV rays using a
Toshiba mercury lamp and a photosensitive resin called Tevistar manufactured
by Teijin. The method involved black and white film used to mask and control
the region of exposure, corresponding to each cross section. The paper also
discusses the use of an x-y plotter device and optical fiber to deliver a spot of
UV light. CMET used a version of this technique in its SOUP 530, 600, and
850 machines.
Kodama published a second paper in November 1981, titled Automatic Method
for Fabricating a Three-Dimensional Plastic Model with Photo Hardening.
In Review of Scientific Instruments, Kodama describes three basic techniques
he used to create plastic parts by solidifying thin, consecutive layers of
photopolymer. In the paper, Kodama claims, “If the solidified layer is
immersed into the liquid with the top at a depth equal to the thickness of the
layer to be solidified, its top surface is covered with unsolidified liquid
polymer,” essentially describing a key element of the stereolithography
process. Kodama’s experiments with the three techniques were perhaps the first
evidence of working additive manufacturing (AM) techniques in the world.
Work in the U.S.
and France
In August 1982, Alan Herbert of 3M Graphic Technologies Sector
Laboratory published a paper titled Solid Object Generation in the Journal of
Applied Photographic Engineering. In this paper, Herbert described a system
that directs an Argon Ion laser beam onto the surface of photopolymer by
means of a mirror system attached to an x-y pen plotter device. With the
system, Herbert was able to create several small, basic shapes. The primary
purpose of the work, however, was to develop an understanding of the
requirements of a real system, according to Herbert.
In 1989–1990 timeframe, Wohlers Associates received a handwritten note from
Alan Herbert, attached to a copy of his 1982 paper, saying that, unfortunately,
his company elected not to commercialize his work. He was apparently very
disappointed with 3M’s decision. His interest in the development of AM
techniques continued, as indicated by his August 1989 paper titled “A Review
of 3D Solid Object Generation” published in the Journal of Imaging
Technology.
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In July 1984, Jean-Claude Andre, now with the French National Center for
Scientific Research (CNRS) in Nancy, France, and colleagues working for the
French Cilas Alcatel Industrial Laser Company, filed a patent titled Apparatus
for Fabricating a Model of an Industrial Part, involving a single-beam laser
approach. The French patent was granted in January 1986. Laser 3D, also of
Nancy, France, tried to commercialize the technique outlined in the patent on a
service basis with no plans to sell systems.
In the late 1980s, Andre explored the dual-beam approach. He found that many
problems existed with it, yet a team at CNRS continued to research the
technique. Andre led the development of stereolithography at CNRS for Laser
3D.
Formation of
3D Systems
In August 1984, Charles Hull, co-founder and chief technical officer of 3D
Systems (at that time, in Valencia, California), applied for a U.S. patent titled
Apparatus for Production of Three-Dimensional Objects by
Stereolithography, which was granted in March 1986. At the time of the
patent application, Hull was working for UVP, Inc. (San Gabriel, California)
as vice president of engineering. In March 1986, Hull and Raymond Freed
co-founded 3D Systems Inc. According to Alan Herbert, published
illustrations show impressive detailed parts produced by Hull’s early system,
much more so than those shown by Kodama or himself.
Hull’s 1986 patent describes a process of photo-hardening a series of cross
sections using a computer-controlled beam of light. Also in 1986, Yehoram
Uziel, then of Operatech (Israel) had invented a basic machine resembling
stereolithography. Uziel had read about Hull’s work, so he traveled to the U.S.
to visit him and Ray Freed. In January 1989, he joined 3D Systems as vice
president of engineering. In late 1987, 3D shipped its first beta units to
customer sites in the U.S., followed by production systems in April 1988.
These were the first commercial additive-manufacturing system installations in
the world.
Uziel left 3D Systems in 1991 to form Soligen, Inc. (Northridge, California).
Around the time Uziel founded Soligen, he licensed MIT’s ink jet printing
technique for exclusive use in the metal-casting industry. Soligen used MIT’s
technology in its Direct Shell Production Casting, a process that created
ceramic investment casting shells (molds) by adhering together thin layers of
ceramic powder material using droplets of liquid binder. Soligen went out of
business in 2006.
In 1986, Hull was not the only one with patent activity on his mind. The same
year, Takashi Morihara of Fujitsu Ltd. patented two elements of
stereolithography. One of them involved passing a blade over the surface of a
new layer of resin to speed the leveling of the layer. This technique is
especially important when the resin is viscous. For many years, 3D Systems
used this leveling technique in its SLA family of stereolithography products.
Another approach developed by Morihara involved the dispensing of the resin
from a slot moving above the surface of the resin. From early 1990 to early
1992, Quadrax Laser Technologies (Portsmouth, Rhode Island) used this resin
deposition technique in its fast resin applicator, a feature contained in its Mark
1000 stereolithography machine.
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Quadrax developed and sold the Mark 1000 system until February 1992, when
its technology was acquired by 3D Systems after patent litigation that began in
September 1990. Under the terms of the settlement, Quadrax transferred its
laser modeling patent (granted in December 1991) and related technology to
3D in exchange for 130,000 shares of 3D common stock. At the time, the stock
was worth about $325,000. As part of the agreement, Quadrax was required to
discontinue marketing its AM system. Former employees of Laser Fare Ltd.
(Smithfield, Rhode Island) developed some of Quadrax’s original technology
and later became employees of Quadrax. Laser Fare sold the technology rights
to Quadrax in 1990.
Osaka Prefectural
Industrial Research
Institute
In 1984, Yoji Marutani of the Osaka Prefectural Industrial Research Institute
(OPIRI), also referred to as the Osaka Institute of Industrial Technology,
developed and demonstrated a stereolithography process. It’s not clear
whether his work was connected with Kodama’s early work, although there’s
a very good chance that Marutani at least studied Kodama’s May 1980 patent
application and his October 1980 and November 1981 technical papers. It’s
also possible that Marutani obtained a copy of Herbert’s 1982 paper, but it’s
doubtful that Marutani knew about Hull’s and Andre’s work in 1984.
Marutani’s patent document, titled Optical Molding Method, dated May 23,
1984, describes his invention in detail. The document describes many key
elements of stereolithography, including the use of photocurable liquid
material, focusing rays of light onto the surface of the liquid resin and
presenting a fresh layer of material on top of the hardened layer.
Marutani continued his research and development of stereolithography, at least
until mid-1987. In a paper dated August 7, 1987, Takashi Nakai and Yoji
Marutani explained that they had developed a new type of system for
constructing 3D models using a UV laser and liquid polymer. Rather than
discussing the development of a new type of system, however, the paper
discusses refinements to already known processes—refinements that increase
speed and dimensional accuracy. At the time of publication, both Nakai and
Marutani were working in the Department of Electronics at the OPIRI.
Kodama’s 1981 paper and Herbert’s 1982 paper were included as references. It
is believed that Marutani is still involved with AM today.
Commercialization of
OPIRI technology
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OPIRI, operated by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI),
licensed its stereolithography technology to a group of Japanese companies,
including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, NTT Data Communications, Asahi
Denka Kogyo, Toyo Denki Seizo, and YAC. Together they formed Computer
Modeling and Engineering Technology (CMET) to develop, manufacture,
and sell AM systems. The exact licensing date is not known, although
Mitsubishi announced in July 1988 that it would sell a stereolithography
machine developed jointly with OPIRI. It has been documented that these
five companies supported the development and commercialization of the
technology in 1989, leading to the introduction of the SOUP system in 1990.
A dated SOUP product brochure, published by CMET, states that the
“product had been developed on the invention of Osaka Prefectural Industrial
Research Institute.”
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Mitsubishi, with a 54% stake, was responsible for planning and development;
NTT Data Communications, with 20%, was responsible for software
development; Asahi Denka Kogyo, 20%, photosensitive resins; Toyo Denki
Seizo, 3%, development of the x-y plotter mechanism and other hardware;
YAC, 3%, precision machine manufacturing technology. Mitsubishi Heavy
Industries reportedly spent 3 billion yen on further developing the OPIRI
technology. At 40–50 million yen per unit, Mitsubishi reportedly sold nine
SOUP systems from early 1989 to early 1990.
Sony and Mitsui
enter the picture
In 1989, Design-Model and Engineering Center (D-MEC) was launched as a
joint venture between Sony and Japan Synthetic Rubber (JSR). In April/May
1989, D-MEC introduced its Solid Creation System (SCS) for 53 million yen.
The system was capable of building urethane acrylate resin parts up to 1000 x
1000 x 750 mm in size from layers at thin as 50 microns (0.002 inch).
According to one reliable source, the system was developed behind closed
doors and details about its origins have been kept quiet. Clearly, Sony had
knowledge of OPIRI and CMET’s technology, as well as the technology
developed by 3D Systems.
3D Systems began to establish a presence in Japan in early 1988 when the
company formed a joint venture with Japan Steel Works, Ltd. (JSW), a Mitsui
company. 3D executives signed the agreement with JSW in March 1988. The
new company, JSW-3D Co., Ltd. (Tokyo), served as a sales, marketing, and
service organization for 3D Systems in Japan. SLA machines were made
available to the Japanese by the third or fourth quarter of 1988. Near the end of
1989, 3D terminated the agreement and formed a wholly owned subsidiary, 3D
Systems Japan.
Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding Company announced its COLAMM
system in March 1991 and introduced it in July 1991 when it offered a series of
introductory seminars. Mitsui’s approach to stereolithography is different than
the systems from 3D Systems, CMET, and Sony/D-MEC. Rather than building
up layers from the top, a laser beam is presented through a transparent plate at
the bottom of the build chamber. Each new layer of resin rests between the
previously cured layer (which is above the resin) and the transparent plate
(which is below the resin). With each new layer, the part moves upward into air
space, rather than being submerged in resin.
Mitsui sold one unit to an automobile modeling company in Kyoto in
December 1991, but has not reported any sales since then. The company had
hoped for sales of 20–30 units in fiscal year 1992. The original COLAMM
system, equipped with an engineering workstation, sold for 41 million yen. The
company worked with Sanyo Chemical Industries to develop an improved resin
with reduced shrink properties.
In January 1989, Mitsui and Nippon Steel announced their plans to form ajoint
venture called Plamedia Research Corp. The company would design and
develop metal molds for producing parts made from plastics. It’s not clear
whether this venture was related to the development of Mitsui’s AM system.
The June 92 issue of Jetro explains Mitsui’s AM approach, verbatim, as a
recent invention by professors N. Nakajima and T. Takagi of the Faculty of
Engineering, University of Tokyo. According to the article, the process can
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build mechanical parts with 8-micron (0.00032-inch) features at an accuracy of
±1 micron (0.00004 inch). Yet the article does not mention the Mitsui
COLAMM system.
Teijin Seiki enters
with DuPont’s help
In 1989, DuPont announced the development of its Somos 1000 Solid
Imaging System, a technology similar to 3D Systems’ SLA. Because of their
similarities, DuPont petitioned the U.S. Patent Office in September 1988 for a
reexamination of Hull’s 1986 patent. DuPont made the Patent Office aware of
Kodama’s publications, as well as those of others. Seven months later, the
Patent Office told 3D Systems that it had rejected all claims in Hull’s patent.
This was about the time DuPont chose to go public with its Somos system,
which occurred around June 1989. In late 1989, the U.S. Patent Office
reversed its decision after 3D Systems produced strong evidence to support
the claims in Hull’s patent, but required the addition of new language that
narrowed its scope. This was a turning point for DuPont.
Teijin Seiki acquired DuPont’s Somos stereolithography technology through a
licensing agreement in late 1991. In March 1992, at the Optomechatronics
Show ’92, Teijin Seiki announced the availability of its Soliform AM system
for 50 million yen. The machine was an enhanced version of DuPont’s original
Somos system, according to Teijin Seiki. With its impressive laser draw speed
of up to 2,400 cm (945 inches) per second, the company considered it a
second-generation AM system. Teijin Seiki had introduced two versions of its
Somos technology, the Soliform 300 (300-mm build chamber) and the
Soliform 500 (500-mm), and had made them available for sale in Asia.
Teijin Seiki obtained the exclusive rights to manufacture and sell DuPont’s
Somos technology, although it was limited to Asia. The Japanese company paid
approximately 700 million yen to obtain the license, including the system’s
blueprints, operating knowledge, and patent and sales rights. After securing the
Somos technology, Teijin Seiki moved 10 researchers from the
electromechanical development department of its Iwakuni plant to it Kanagawa
Science Park laboratories to work on the Somos project. In 1991, Teijin
projected annual sales of 10 billion yen in 3–4 years.
In 1989, DuPont filed several patent applications related to stereolithography.
Four of them concentrated on photopolymer developments. In the mid 1990s,
DuPont supplied resins to Teijin Seiki, Electro Optical Systems (Germany),
and users of 3D Systems’ SLA 250 and SLA 500 models.
Others jump in
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In early 1989, Hans J. Langer, formally of General Scanning (German
branch), and a few associates started Electro Optical Systems (EOS). By mid1990, BMW ordered its first system from EOS, and later a second for about
DM 1 million. European Technology Holding, a venture capital company in
Amsterdam, provided the basic financial support for Langer to go into
business. Langer also secured DM 1 million from the German Federal
Government’s program for young technology entrepreneurs. Between mid1991 and July 1993, EOS had shipped 15 STEREOS stereolithography
systems to sites in Europe and Japan. Another customer, Hitachi Zosen
Information Systems, had begun to market the EOS system in Japan.
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In 1991, Nissei Sangyo Company announced the availability of an AM
product, a combination of elements from Matsuo Sangyo and 3D Systems
Japan. During the first year, Nissei Sangyo expected to sell 15 units, priced at
about 100 million yen. Little is known about this development.
In early 1993, Denken Engineering (Oita City, Oita Pref., Japan) and
Autostrada Corp. jointly introduced a 7.8 million yen stereolithography system
called the Solid LD Plotter System, SLP-3000. The unit uses visible light and a
laser diode, rather than expensive lasers used in other stereolithography
systems. According to Denken, the overall size of the SLP-3000 is small
compared to competitive systems, yet it is capable of producing parts up to 200
x 400 x 300 mm (about 8 x 16 x 12 inches). The company hoped to sell about
50 units per year, many going to Japanese government labs.
Non-stereolithography
approaches
While the Japanese concentrated on the stereolithography process, companies
and individuals in the U.S. and Israel were developing other approaches to
additive manufacturing.
In June 1986, Itzchak Pomerantz, founder and former president of Cubital
(Raanana, Israel), filed for an Israeli patent. At the time, Pomerantz was
working for Scitex Corporation, an Israeli company that owned a small
percentage of Cubital. Pomerantz’ patent, titled Three-Dimensional Mapping
and Modeling System, laid the ground work for the Solider 5600, which
Cubital introduced in July 1987. In May 1988, Cubital and 3D Systems crosslicensed certain parts of their technologies to minimize the possibility of
subsequent legal conflicts.
In 1986, Russian immigrant Dr. Efrem Fudim of Light Sculpting (Milwaukee,
WI) offered one of the first commercially available part-building services using
an AM technology he invented. His system projects a flood of light from a UV
lamp through a mask onto the surface of photopolymer. This mask approach
was similar to Cubital’s photo mask, although Cubital had automated the
process. With Fudim’s system, individual masks were produced on a Gerber
photoplotter and manually positioned over the build chamber for each new
layer. This labor intensive, time-consuming approach did not win the hearts of
buyers. Consequently, Fudim did not sell a single system.
Missing from Fudim’s machine was a fast way to transfer the cross section
information to the build chamber. In October 1991, Sanyo Electric applied for
a patent involving a flat LCD panel as a mask through which UV light would
shine onto the surface of photopolymer. Tests, however, indicated that the UV
light would deteriorate the liquid crystal, shortening its effectiveness to hours.
Fudim had also considered this approach.
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